TextmanuscriptTextmanuscripts - Les Enluminures

les Enluminures


In Latin, decorated manuscript on parchment
Northern Italy, c. 1125-40

TM 877
  • 148.700 €
  • £132,600
  • $175,000


i (paper) + 90 + i (paper) folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil top outer corner recto, complete (collation i-x8 xi12 [-11 and 12,  cancelled with no loss of text]), quires signed center lower margin with small capital letters on the verso of the last leaf of each quire A-K (last quire unsigned), and numbered with red roman numerals beginning with “ii” at the end of the first quire and concluding with “xii” for the last quire, no leaf signatures or catchwords, ruled in hard point for a central column of biblical text (quite narrow) with double full-length vertical bounding lines, and columns for the gloss on either side, apparently ruled as needed, prickings for the biblical text in the outer margin (justification biblical text 179 x 42-37 mm.; text and gloss 205-183 x 137-132 mm.), biblical text written in a caroline minuscule in a narrow central column of twenty-one lines, with interlinear and marginal glosses copied in a smaller but precise script on up to sixty-seven lines, when necessary extending across the upper and lower margins, sentences within the biblical text begin with one-line red initials, gloss capitals touched in red on f. 1 only, incipit, explicit and titles in rustic display capitals, f. 1, seventeen-line blank space, now with the opening words of the biblical text (“Uir erat in terra hus nomini Iob”) supplied in large display capitals, alternately red and black, with black and red contrasting pen decoration, added probably in the last decades of the twelfth century, staining and rodent damage to the edges of ff. 87-90, occasional spotting and cockling but generally in very good condition.  Bound in old brown sheep over pasteboard, spine with four raised bands, rebacked with parts of the spine laid down, corners repaired, previous description notes the remains of label (now missing) applied with sealing wax to upper cover, a few letters in ink visible on the spine, red cloth and leather fitted box labelled “Book of Job/ Glossed/ Manuscript/ France 12th century.”  Dimensions 260 x 150 mm.

This manuscript from the Cistercian Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba is one of the earliest witnesses to the book of Job with the Ordinary Gloss – particularly important as evidence of the circulation of that text in Italy very soon after it was written.  The script used in the margins for the glosses is remarkable - microscopically minute but with no loss of legibility.  This is a small, light volume, tall and rather narrow, suitable for private reading, in the cloister, or at the roadside, of the great biblical text promising comfort and constancy in time of trouble.


1. Written in Italy in the second quarter of the twelfth century, c. 1125-40.  This is a harmonious manuscript, with both the biblical text and the accompanying glosses probably copied by a single scribe.  The script of the biblical text is an upright caroline minuscule; a date early in the twelfth century is suggested by the lack of compression, both vertically and horizontally (even ‘pp’ is written separately), the predominate use of straight ‘s’, ‘d’ and ‘r’, and e-cedilla; the biblical text has very few abbreviations, although both the ampersand and the tironian-7 are used for “et” (and), and the Italian abbreviation for “qui” (‘q’ with a horizontal stroke through the descender) is found (e.g. f. 11, line 4).  The glosses are written in a very small precise script that is slightly more angular, with more frequent abbreviations, but is still upright and uncompressed.  Word separation is good but not absolute.  Other early features to note are the lack of running titles and chapter divisions in the original hand.    

An early date is also suggested by the layout and ruling of the manuscript.  The biblical text was copied in a rather narrow central column on broadly spaced lines ruled in hard point with double vertical bounding lines on each side.  The glosses were added between the lines and in columns on either side of the text, copied on closely spaced lines also ruled in hard point (with about three lines of gloss to each line of biblical text).  The ruling for the glosses appears to have been as needed in a second step after the biblical text was copied.

2. An ownership note on the final verso written in an early hand, possibly contemporary, reads “Liber sancte Marie de Columba.” The Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, the Cistercian abbey in Alseno (Piacenza), Emilia Romagna was founded from Burgundy in 1136. This manuscript dates from the period of its foundation.  It has signs of conscientious use in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, including the addition of modern chapter divisions in the margins.  Chiaravalle was suppressed in the Napoleonic era: in 1805 its assets were nationalized and its library was dispersed; in 1810, the monks were forced to leave.  Many of its manuscripts passed to Francesco Giovio (1796-1878), and were at least partly dispersed through Hoepli in Milan in 1883. 

3. An earlier description mentioned a stamped armorial ex libris on the front flyleaf (arms gules, two bars argent, charged with three chalices or 1 & 2, with inscriptions “Moderata Durant,” and Ex libris de Mojolis”); this is no longer present in the volume. 

4. Christie’s, June 25, 1997, lot 21. 

5. Belonged to Rick Adams; his small oval blue and gold paper ex libris, “RLA” on the front flyleaf.

6. Private European collection.


ff. 1-90v, [Biblical text], incipit, “Vir erat in terra hus nomine Iob.  Et erat vir ille simplex … et mortuus est senex et plus dierum,” Explicit Liber Iob; ff. 1-90v, [first gloss, inner margin], incipit, “Prius persona apta describitur …”; [second gloss, inner margin], incipit, “Allegorice.  Iob dolens id est christus qui dolores …”; [top margin], incipit, “Timens deum.  Salomon qui timet deum …”; [top margin, second gloss], incipit, “Hus. Quae est terra gentilium ad laudem …”; [outer margin], incipit, “Per iob christi, id est caput et corpus designator …”; [first interlinear gloss], incipit, “Necesse est ut et simplicitatem columbę astucia serpentis instruat et astuciam simplicitas temperet unde spiritus in columba et igne apparuit quia pleni illo sic mansuetudini simplicitatis servient ut contra mala zelo rectitudinis accendantur.” … [f. 90v, final interlinear gloss], incipit, “Sed quia inter perfectos sunt … cum fratribus”; [f. 90rv, final marginal gloss], incipit, “Et uocauit nomen unius diem [Job 42:14].  Omnis qui misercordia redemptoris eligitur… Ipse ergo ex perfectorum numero speciose memorantur.  Ipse etiam ex imperfectorum numero ….  Sorores ergo cum fratribus ad hereditatem veniunt quia infirmi ad cęlestia …. Plena dierum moritur quia per hęc transeuntia tempora id quid non transit operator,” E[X]P[L]I[C]T L[I]B[E]R [B]E[A]T[I]S[S]I[M]I [I]O[B] [Explicit liber beatissimi Job, with every second letter omitted, perhaps with the intention of writing them in red].

Job with the Glossa Ordinaria; the complete text of the Job, copied in the larger script, with selections from patristic and medieval commentaries that explain the biblical text, copied in a smaller script on either side and between the lines of the biblical text.  There is no modern edition this text.  The editio princeps, which was printed in Strasburg in 1481 by Rusch is useful as a working edition of the Ordinary Gloss, but it often differs in important respects from the manuscripts (Zier, 2004, pp. 165-168; facsimile edition, Froehlich and Gibson, 1992, also available online; there is a current project underway to prepare an online edition, see Online Resources).  There are notable differences between the text of the present manuscript and the 1481 edition.  The lack of any opening prologues may be an early sign.  Overall there are fewer glosses here (especially at the beginning of the Job), and many are arranged differently.  For example, the lengthy first interlinear gloss in this manuscript is found as a marginal gloss in the incunable edition.  

Glossed biblical books dating as early as this manuscript are of considerable potential textual interest since their text may in fact vary significantly from the text we call the Ordinary Gloss (Beryl Smalley in 1961 dubbed some of these variant manuscripts “les gloses périmées”).

The text known as the Ordinary Gloss on the Bible (or the Glossa Ordinaria), was one of the twelfth century’s greatest intellectual achievements, and one that had a lasting influence on the history of  biblical exegesis, creating a text that was used as the standard school text to the end of the Middle Ages and even later.  It consists of the biblical text, copied in a distinctive, larger script, accompanied by selected quotations from patristic and medieval commentaries, copied in a smaller script on the same page.  Texts by numerous authors are reflected in the commentary, including patristic authors such as Jerome, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Isidore, and Bede, and, less commonly, Origen, John Chrysostom, and Ambrose, as well as later authors including Rabanus Maurus (d. 856), John Scotus Eriugena (d. 877), Berengar of Tours (d. 1088) and  Lanfranc of Bec (d. 1089).  The Bible and its Gloss gave readers – often teachers and students of the Bible – access to the complete biblical text and commentaries in one convenient location.  To date there are critical editions only of the Glossa Ordinaria of Canticles and part of Lamentations (Dove, 1997, and André, 2005). 

The Ordinary Gloss was not a text compiled, or even thought of, by a single author, but was rather the result of a long process over the course of the twelfth century that gradually grew to include the complete Bible.  The textual history of the Gloss on Job seems to begin at Laon; five manuscripts almost certainly copied at Laon before 1140 have been identified:  Avranches, BM, MS 16; Laon, BM, MS 5; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson G 17; Oxford, Trinity College, MS 20; and Paris, BnF, MS lat. 14781 (Stirnemann, 1994; Smith, 2009).  Attributing the Gloss on Job to one particular master is impossible, but certainly it was one of the early books glossed, and most likely was the work of either Anselm himself, or one of his close collaborators.  Its main source is Gregory the Great’s Moralia on Job (no. 8), the most widely read commentary on Job during the Middle Ages (Smith, 2009, p. 47, describing it as an example of a biblical book with glosses from a single source).  Preliminary study of the glosses in this manuscript, however, discovered some glosses from a second source, the commentary on Job once attributed to Jerome, printed in the Patrologia latina vol. 23 (Stegmüller , 1950-1980, no. 3421; see for example col. 1471D, for the opening interlinear gloss, and col. 1478A-C, for the final gloss).  

Script, layout and ruling point to an early date for this manuscript, c. 1125-40, making it as early as the group identified from Laon.  The biblical text was copied in a rather narrow central column on broadly spaced lines ruled in hardpoint with double vertical bounding lines on each side.  The glosses were added in a second step between the lines and in columns on either side of the text; although on many folios the ruling is very difficult to see, they appear to have been copied on closely spaced lines also ruled in hardpoint (with about three lines of gloss to each line of biblical text).  Significantly, the ruling for the glosses was added as needed, although occasionally on folios where there are extensive glosses, the scribe appears to have ruled an entire column for the gloss. This type of simple layout, where the biblical text and the glosses were copied independently, is found in early glossed Bibles.  

The manuscript includes evidence that it was used.  Particularly interesting are the long lines that restructure the gloss.  For example, on f. 13, the gloss ends in the outer column followed by a long blank space; a line was added to connect it to the next gloss, lower on the page.  Modern chapters were added in a later hand (the chapters we use today came into widespread use c. 1230).  There are also numerous nota marks in a neat, calligraphically pleasing form, and lines alongside glosses that probably were added for the same purpose. 

The manuscript belonged to the Abbey of Chiaravalle della Colomba, the celebrated Cistercian monastery in Alseno (Piacenza), Emilia Romagna, founded in 1136 by Bishop Arduino of Piacenza, who appealed to St. Bernard himself, then at the Council of Pisa (1135), to send a colony of monks to found a new monastery.  The abbey’s name is said to originate from the dove (“columba” in Latin) that showed the monks where to build their church.  Mirella Ferrari in her study of the surviving twelfth-century manuscripts from Cistercian monasteries in Northern Italy lists sixteen manuscripts from Chiaravalle della Columba, but she did not know of this manuscript (Ferrari, 1993, pp. 273-276 and 297-8; Ferrari, 1980, pp. 281-3, listed twelve).  This manuscript may be compared with the commentary on Isaiah by Hervaeus de Bourgdieu, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Lat. th.b.9, also from Chiaravalle.


Andrée, Alexander, ed. Gilbertus Universalis, Glossa ordinaria in Lamentationes Ieremie prophete. Prothemata et Liber 1A Critical Edition with an Introduction and a Translation, Stockholm, 2005.

Corvi P. and Spinelli G.  “S. Maria di Chiaravalle della Colomba,” in Monasteri Benedettini in Emilia Romagna, Milan, 1980, pp. 83-95.

De Hamel, Christopher. Glossed Books of the Bible and the Origins of the Paris Booktrade, Woodbridge, Suffolk and Dover, New Hampshire, 1984.

Dove, Mary, ed. Glossa ordinaria, pars 22, In Canticum canticorum, CCCM 170, Turnhout, Belgium, 1997.

Ferrari, Mirella. “Biblioteche e scrittoi Benedettini nella storia culturale della diocesi Ambrosiana: Appunti ed episodi,” Ricerche storiche sulla chiesa Ambrosiana 9 [=Archivio Ambrosiano 40] (1980), pp. 230–90.

Ferrari, Mirella. “Dopo Bernardo: biblioteche e ‘scriptoria’ cisterciensi dell’Italia settentrionale nel XII secolo,” in San Bernardo e l’Italia, ed, Pietro Zerbi, Milan, 1993, pp. 253-306.

Froehlich, Karlfried and Margaret T. Gibson, eds. Biblia Latina cum Glossa Ordinaria : Facsimile Reprint of the Editio Princeps Adolph Rusch of Strassburg 1480/81, Turnhout, 1992.

Smalley, Beryl. “Les Commentaires Bibliques de l’Epoque Romane: Glose Ordinaire et Gloses Périmées,” in Studies in Medieval Thought and Learning from Abelard to Wyclif, London, 1981, pp.17-25 [reprinted from Cahiers de Civilisation Médiévale, IVe Année (1961), pp. 15-22].

Smith, Lesley. The Glossa Ordinaria: The Making of a Medieval Bible, Leiden and Boston, 2009.

Stirnemann, Patricia. “Gilbert de la Porrée et les livres glosés à Laon, à Chartres et à Paris,” in Monde médiéval et société chartraine : actes du colloque international organisé par la ville et le diocèse de Chartres à l'occasion du 8e centenaire de la Cathédrale de Chartres, ed. Jean-Robert Armogathe, Paris, 1997, pp. 83-95.

Stirnemann, Patircia, “Où ont été fabriqués les livres de la glose ordinaire dans la première moitié du XIIe siècle?,” in Le XIIe siècle: mutations et renouveau en France dans la première moitié du XIIe siècle, ed. Françoise Gasparri, Paris, 1994, pp. 257-279.

Zier, Daniel. “The Manuscript Tradition of the Glossa Ordinaria for Daniel and Hints at a Method for a Critical Edition,” Scriptorium 47 (1993), pp. 3-25.

Zier, Daniel. “The Development of the Glossa Ordinaria to the Bible in the 13th Century: The Evidence of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris,” in La Bibbia del XIII secolo: storia del testo, storia dell esegesi, G. Cremascoli and F. Santi, eds., Florence, 2004, pp. 155-184.

Online Resources

Official website of Chiaravalle della Colomba

Glossae.net:  Glosses and Commentaries to the Bible in the Middle Ages (includes discussions, bibliography, and extensive links to sources, and an electronic edition based on the printed fifteenth-century edition, in progress):

Link to digitized fifteenth century edition of the Glossa Ordinaria

TM 877